Baby survives liver cancer, two transplants and is 100th liver recipient at Children’s Mercy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Jackson Thomas of Overland Park is not even a year old, yet he’s already faced cancer and received two liver transplants. Both were performed in May. Jackson became the 100th liver recipient at Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Over the past four months, the pint-sized 11-month-old has needed every ounce of resilience and strength that he packs. After Jackson had some bloating, his parents, Terry and Lee Thomas, felt a lump on one side of the twin’s torso. Tests revealed it was hepatoblastoma, a liver cancer.

“It’s just devastating. It’s like the whole world is over for us,” said his mother, Terry.

Jackson started chemotherapy, but the large tumor wasn’t shrinking in the right places.

“In Jackson’s case, we couldn’t take the tumor out surgically without taking the entire liver out,” said Dr. Walter Andrews, a transplant surgeon at Children’s Mercy.

Jackson needed a liver transplant. He got one on May 14th. Everything seemed perfect, but three days later, blood wasn’t flowing through the artery to the liver. An operation couldn’t correct it. Jackson had a second liver transplant nine days after the first.

“We were so happy the first time. Oh yeah. And then, oh my God, it’s not working. And then oh, yeah, we got another,” said his mother.

That second donated liver is working quite well.

“We expect the new liver to function for his whole life and we follow these kids very closely to make sure that happens,” said Dr. James Daniel, a liver specialist at Children’s Mercy.

The doctors and family know a long life wouldn’t have been possible for Jackson without two families who donated their children’s livers in their time of grief.

“I’m so grateful to the donors’ families. They saved our little boy’s life, you know?” said Terry Thomas.

Jackson will have three more chemo treatments this summer. The outlook is good that he’ll remain cancer-free.

Doctors don’t know why Jackson got liver cancer. Hepatoblastoma strikes about 100 babies and children in the United States each year.

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